Reading Wrap-up: January 2017 Edition

And thus begins a monthly reading wrap-up series.  Because I can.

The first book I read in 2017 isn’t really a book at all, technically-speaking.  It’s the bound and published screenplay of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling.  I don’t believe that I’ve stated as such so far on this blog, so let’s just get this out of the way now: I am a die-hard Harry Potter fan.  The books have been part of the fabric of my life for as long as I can remember.  I can quote pretty much all of the movies by heart.  I have a tattoo of the Deathly Hallows symbol on my inner ankle.  My love for the Harry Potter series is deep, true, powerful, etc.  And while I was skeptical of the new Fantastic Beasts film series, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  Was it perfect?  No.  But it reminded me a lot of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone, for the British contingent) in that its purpose was to use a simpler, one-off story to set up a much larger, darker narrative.  I remember leaving the theater intrigued about what comes next.  I read the screenplay in the hopes of delving deeper into the story/characters than what made it into the movie, but it would seem that the published screenplay is pretty much a carbon-copy of the final film.  I was a little disappointed at that, but hey – it’s a pretty addition to my shelf of Harry Potter books.

Book number two?  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  This is a novel that I’ve had my eye on for a while and have just never picked up.  What I’m coming to admire more and more about Gaiman’s works is how effortlessly he blends reality and magic.  He presents the fantastical elements of his novels with such frankness and matter-of-factness that you never think to question them.  Perhaps this has something to do with his narrators – in this case a seven-year-old boy inclined to believe the impossible and the extraordinary.  But the narratives that he weaves, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception, almost give the sense that we too could find these hidden pockets of the world if only we knew where to look, or if we had the wherewithal to set aside our own skepticism, our own cynicism.  It’s a nice sentiment to believe – even if the things lurking on the flip side of our reality aren’t necessarily pleasant.

The third and final book I read in the month of January was The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – a powerful story in which Whitehead reimagines the historical network of the Underground Railroad as a literal underground railroad operating to carry runaway slaves to freedom in the north.  The novel, which occasionally switches narrators to accommodate multiple perspectives, is the story of Cora, a young woman who escapes her existence as a slave on a Georgia plantation.  The novel pulls no punches, and is matter-of-fact in regards to the brutality Cora faces both on the plantation and off, yet does not lose sight of small moments of victory along Cora’s journey.  I won’t go into much more detail.  I think this is best experienced with as little foreknowledge as possible.  A heavy read but one that I would highly recommend.

And that’s all for January!  Come back in a month for my thoughts on my February reads 🙂

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